The Committee met virtually for the consideration and adoption of the minutes of previous meetings, the Report of the Committee on the 2019/20 Fourth Quarter performance of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, the Property Management Trading Entity and Report on the Adjustments made within the Budgetary Allocation of Vote 13: Public Works and Infrastructure.
On the minutes, a concern was raised around the need for clarity on the numbers of Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWP) participants. There was a figure of 20 000 which was confusing.
On the quarterly report, Members said it was disingenuous for the Committee to say the lockdown had affected its spending as the previous financial year ended when the lockdown began. There was agreement that the Committee must place a strong oversight role. Further questions were posed on the quarantine sites. It was agreed that the Department would need to respond to some of these concerns in writing.
The Chairperson welcomed Members to the virtual meeting.
The Committee Secretary read the minutes for the meetings that 2 June, 11 June, 17 June, 24 June and 9 July 2020.
The minutes were all adopted.
Ms S Graham (DA) commented on the minutes of 9 July 2020 noting that in the meeting, the Committee had asked for the clarity on the numbers of Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWP) participants. There was a figure of 20 000 which was confusing as there was no clarity in the previous meeting. She also asked who was going to monitor and implement the EPWP programme because she did not receive adequate answers in the previous meeting. It is important to have clarified information so that there is no confusion in the future.
The Chairperson seconded both issues that were raised by Ms Graham and emphasised the importance of getting the correct figures.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on the 2019/20 Fourth Quarter performance of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, the Property Management Trading Entity
The Committee’s Content Advisor took Members through the Report.
The Chairperson asked if Members would like to engage with the Report.
Ms Graham made an observation about the Department saying that lockdown had an effect on its spending – she said this was not possible because the lockdown happened five days before the end of the financial year and there was no way this would have affected the financial year and it was disingenuous for the Department to say this. She was also concerned by the request of the Director- General to return all infrastructure projects to the Department when no one knows how the pandemic is going to pan out. This is not the right thing for the DG to do. The Committee needs to monitor and check on this.
The Chairperson agreed that it is not accurate for the Department to blame Covid-19 for its failure to produce reports as this does not show an honest picture. There is a need for the Committee to play the oversight role and monitor the resolutions. In terms of the oversight matter, she was concerned how the Committee is going to conduct oversight and how the Department is going to report. There is a lot to be done in terms of the infrastructure project but with the help of the Content Advisor it will be possible to achieve the desired results. The Committee Report that was presented captured the essence of the discussions and interactions of the Committee.
The REIS programme in the PMTE reported that it was in advance stages of developing government precincts in both urban and rural areas and the Committee would welcome the opportunity for the Department to report on these projects. The REIS further referred to the challenges in developing these precincts involved in aligning the Department’s legal framework with the Spatial and Land Use Management Act.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on the Adjustments made within the Budgetary Allocation of Vote 13: Public Works and Infrastructure
The Committee Secretary took Members through the Report.
The Chairperson opened the floor for Members to engage with the draft Report.
Ms L Shabalala (ANC) welcomed the draft Report although she was not sure of the actual number of EPWP figures. She suggested that the matter be put on hold until the Committee gets the correct figures from the Department.
Ms Graham supported the concern raised by Ms Shabalala about the figures that have been given in terms of the EPWP and that there was never a report on the issue. Perhaps there is a need to request a report so as to know exactly the actual number because the Department was getting money for this. She also emphasised the need to find out which department will be responsible for the EPWP employment numbers and also the quarantine sites list of the repatriation of South Africans because the list presented was not correct. She was concerned about the amount of money being lost and it would be better to request an audit of the quarantine sites so as to get a clear direction. She questioned the disconnect of the virement between DPWI and National Treasury – this needs to be followed up on.
Ms A Siwisa (EFF) raised the issue of the programme that the Department was going to embark on sanitization and asked if it is a continuation of a programme that was being done by the Department of Basic Education or they were going to focus on a different programme and schools. On the issues of quarantine sites she also highlighted that she did not have a clear picture of what was going on because the Department was going to pay for sites that were not yet active. There was some information not being shared by the Department. Also why are the people being paid that have volunteered their places for quarantine sites – this is not voluntary. Before the lockdown there were already EPWP people working and since the lockdown there have been more people inducted in the programme – are these people part of the lockdown people who are working with EPWP?
The Chairperson informed Members that some of the questions were to be sent to the Department for written answers.
The Committee Secretary concurred with Members that there were responses needed and suggested they submit questions and recommendations so that they could be forwarded to the Minister for response.
The Report was adopted.
Further Committee Business
The Committee Secretary informed Members of the disciplinary process against the Department official that appeared in bed and topless during a Committee meeting as his camera was on. The Chairperson was asked to submit her input to the lawyers on the impact this caused on the proceedings of the Committee. The official had apologised to the Committee which the Committee accepted. The Committee asked that this not lead to the loss of a job.
The Chairperson reiterated that while the incident was inappropriate, the official should not lose his job especially during this difficult time.
The Committee would soon be informed of details of its planned oversight visit.
Correspondence was also received from the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure on the Expropriation Bill. The Committee was supposed to be briefed by the Department on the progress of this Bill on 24 June 2020 but this was postponed for the urgent matter of the infrastructure plan post-COVID19. The Minister was then asked to submit a full report on the progress made on the Expropriation Bill. This has since been submitted and circulated to Members last week. The Minister indicated she hoped to table the Bill in Parliament around October. The Committee agreed to have a proper briefing on the progress in the third term to assess how far and ready the Department was to table the Bill. This will enable the Committee to also prepare itself.
In the third term, the Committee would meet with the office of the Auditor-General on the audit outcomes of the Department. This would be followed by the Budget Review and Recommendations Report. The Committee would also need a strategic planning session which was delayed due to COVID19 and Parliament’s amended programme. There would also be the workshop on the Infrastructure Development Act as part of the planning session. During the term there would also be an update on the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report. It has been proposed the Committee look into having two meetings a week due to the magnitude of the work of the Committee and the delay caused by COVID19.
Mr E Mathebula (ANC) noted that what occurred in a prior meeting of the DPWI official was inappropriate and while he agreed the official should not lose his job for displaying his half naked body in the Committee meeting, a strong warning should be leveled against the official to serve as a deterrent to others.
Ms P Kopane (DA) emphasised the need for oversight over projects carried out on behalf of DPWI – this must be fit into the programme next ter
In closing, the Chairperson implored that Members remain safe and adhere to the protocols to protect themselves from COVID19.
The meeting was adjourned.
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